Praying for a Revival?

You should be! But likely not in the way that you are. Let me divulge.

I’ll start and finish with the Asbury Revival (of February 2023). I am hopeful. I pray it is genuine, transparent, and real. No hype, no flash, no superstars, people truly finding Jesus where they are and being moved to places they haven’t been spurring each other with the tools to persevere and continue to grow as disciples when the excitement clears. I pray it is an authentic outpouring of the Spirit. It appears to be a community of worship, testimony, prayer, teaching, and humility in a spirit of deep contemplative shepherding. I pray the only name and face is Jesus.

With that said, this article has very little to do with Asbury itself. A great part of Theology is understanding the original message and intention of words and determining how we might properly interpret them within the context of the original audience and how they may then be applied to us if at all. This article will seek to explore what the term revival meant when used in the pages of the Bible and how we still might apply and interpret the word thousands of years later. A mature believer should understand the context of the scripture and apply it similarly to their own walk.

Today I find the great majority (but not all) of our evangelical Christian churches are “off the reservation.” We are way past the recipe given and the evolution of it doesn’t look better (I regularly say any evolution is ugly.) We haven’t taken the recipe and created a steadfast feast that is more grandeurs than the original, but rather “watered it down” and created more of a cheap fast-food snack, and some might even say a poison. We are enabling thoughts and actions that lead farther from discipleship rather than closer. We are seeking things that are opposite of what we should be; ideals that promote casual Christianity rather than wholly devoted discipleship. In some cases, we are part of a wayward (Biblically described as adulterous – not my words) bride that needs to be shepherded to a better place and we should all be concerned and in unity of spirit to bring her (us-them) back in the trajectory of Jesus. Some people say that we are in need of revival to accomplish this, and I “sort of” agree with that, however its problematic framework within theology for a few reasons that I will explain. I am not as convinced that we need “revival” as I am that we need transparent, authentic, raw, and real discipleship. From the 1:1 level to 3, 12, and 70; everyone in the church should be on a continuous journey of being devoutly discipled and discipling others in a covenant community.

Let me say first that not all of the body of Christ looks like a fast-food snack. I am part of a life group that is amazing and walks with Yahweh communally each day with people that are in different stages of the journey. I also have many friends around the country that belong to vibrant bodies that are flourishing in discipleship. At Covenant Theological Seminary (where I am the president) we have thousands of students that desire to live as fervent disciples and lead others in that walk and are in a devout journey with Jesus and others. We are nurturing a discipleship culture. Find your tribe, find discipleship, live in life! Unfortunately, in my county there are 92 churches and the great majority of them don’t show the fruit of discipleship as described in the Bible. It seems much of the church has a discipleship and/or covenant adultery problem.

When people say things like, “we, or our church” need a revival; I believe it is “good” and I want to believe that their hearts are right; but it is really the opposite of what they should be saying as mature Christians and can be an indicator of shallow theological understanding. When people want to drive for hours to be part of “a move of God” it can sometimes seem like they are empty of the spirit moving this way in their life regularly, so they want to “go find it” somewhere else.

According to Merriam Webster to “revive” means to bring something back to life or resurrect it.

I would agree with Webster here that the definition implies something once had life, that life has ceased, and then is restored. It isn’t often that I would say a modern definition of a word is in line with a Biblical definition but in this case it likely is. The challenge we have to address when we apply this definition to a Biblical perspective is that we need to interpret “life” based on a Biblical understanding.

There are two Hebrew words that are translated “revive, revived, or reviving” in the Old Testament. They are chayah and michyah. Michyah is the noun and adjective form of chayah. Here are Strong’s definitions:

2421. chayah, khaw-yaw’; a primary root; to live whether literally or figuratively; causative, to revive:

Translated (in the KJV): keep (leave, make) alive, X certainly, give (promise) life, (let, suffer to) live, nourish up, preserve (alive), quicken, recover, repair, restore (to life), revive, (X God) save (alive, life, lives), X surely, be whole.

4241. michyah, mikh-yaw’; from 2421; preservation of life; hence sustenance; also the live flesh, i.e. the quick:

Translated (in the KJV): preserve life, quick, recover selves, reviving, sustenance, victuals.

By Biblical definition, chayah means to live, michyah means the preservation of life and they are both translated “revive, revived, or reviving.” Neither one really takes on the more modern idea of resuscitation of life.

There is only one word in Greek in the Bible that is translated “revive.” It is anazao:

326. anazao, an-ad-zah’-o; from 303 and 2198; to recover life (lit. or fig.):

Translated (in the KJV): be alive again, live again, revive.

The Greek seems to be more in line with the way we think of “revival” today within our modern western evangelical glasses. The root word is zao, from which we get the word zoo. Used as a prefix (“zoo”-logy) it means life. Zoology is the study of life. Zao means life, or to live. In this specific word, the Greek prefix ana means to become. It is a word that has several meanings when taken in context. It may mean in the midst of, up, between, apiece, in turn, again, and others. So anazao means to come alive (again).

Based on the above, in theology there are two views of Revival, and ironically the basic conceptions of both views are near opposite. The first claims that Revival can only come to one that is already “saved,” and the second view would attend that it can only come to those that are not “saved.”

  1. The first view (that I do not ascribe to) says that only Christians can be “revived” because only they have spiritual life, having been regenerated by the Spirit of God on the basis of the redeeming work of Christ. At first it sounds pretty good, but let’s really consider the statement. This definition tends to be a reformed view hinging on some of the 5 pillars of Calvinism (TULIP). Biblically those in this camp would need to interpret the Israel story to be “always saved” because they are God’s chosen and therefore can’t lose their salvation (which in my opinion is far-fetched, but that is another post.) Therefore, when revival comes to Israel, it must be defined as bringing His people back to spiritual vitality. I could actually agree with this for the definition of renewal but not necessarily revival, but the text says revival; so, in my mind the definition still doesn’t work. There are several other problems with this view, but the main one is that isn’t ever the Biblical definition of what the word revival means. It might be what we want the term revival to mean in a modern culture, but I would argue it didn’t mean that to the intended audience and shouldn’t mean that today. The Hebrew text repeatedly treats revival in Israel as having new life (they were dead and now they live), not some kind of second awakening from real life to a better kind of real life, or real life again. That kind of thinking is platonic philosophy applied to 1700’s reformed antics and requires a lot of theological gymnastics to try to align with the Biblical definition of revival. Revival is the same root as resurrection which implies from death or destruction to a completely new life pointing to the example of what we have in Christ. As I will go on to point out, if you are in Christ, you are already a new creation and once you have this life in Christ you aren’t looking to get it over and over again.

    This view of “revival” is often interpreted in modern English as “restoring the life you once had.” Drowning victims and heart attack victims can be revived or brought back to their previous life. Normally when people say they desire revival, they don’t want to just get the life back we had a few minutes or years ago, they are desiring of more than they had, they are asking that God take them further or that they might experience more than they previously had. In this way you might think of revival as to come home, like the prodigal did. (Although some will argue that the context of the parable of the prodigal son is Israel and shouldn’t be applied to us and that is a valid point to consider here, does it have application to the word revival at all?) To consider this point, perhaps there is a Biblical application to someone that once had a vibrant life in Christ and went astray and is now seeking restoration or reconciliation back to God or the community or body of Christ. But again, this doesn’t really seem to fit what most people pray for when they are praying for “revival” although in some situations it may be very accurate and applicable. It seems like this is often used to rather defend a view of once saved always saved and try to give merit to eternal security theology. As I would contend with much of the (TULIP) framework, this seems like a stretch here. The specific words for revival never seem to be applied to these situations in the Bible. For instance, in the Prodigal parable, the author certainly could have used the term anazao  if that was the intention, but they didn’t.
  2. The best hermeneutical approach (what the Bible seems to clearly teach) indicating a definition of Biblical revival (as it is used throughout the pages of the Bible) would be to say, the unsaved or dead, are brought to authentic life. God brings a community out of destruction (chaos-death) into “life” with Him. I will demonstrate this in the scriptures below. This obviously gets very theological. Our modern western minds go right to thinking salvifically as I mentioned with the first point. Most western Christians are always trying to find where the line of salvation is drawn in the sand. In other words, was the person saved and then came back? (Once saved always saved? TULIP) I would suggest thinking this way is a deeply rooted modern problem and needs to be untrained. It is the wrong way to consider the journey of salvation and sanctification. Christ died once for all and offers the same to us, to accept life once. Not over and over again. Humanity is Biblically personified in Adam, we have physical life (which at one time in Eden was whole but is now Biblically dead – at one time we belonged to God but now we are the worlds) and when we accept one new life grafted into the body of Jesus we are reclaimed by God and experience death to our previous life and resurrection of new life in Christ. Therefore…

When we are “revived” it is the returning to Edenic life that God intended for us. We are revived to the original plan and context of partnering in life with God, made complete in Christ, and culminated in the fellowship and communion of His body… ONCE AND FOR ALL.

Nehemiah brought Israel “back” from captivity giving them freedom. Every time revival came to Israel they were literally lost in their destruction (a metaphor for death). Today the American church is also very much lost in their destruction in idolatry to the world and most of the church seems to enable it. I am careful again to not draw a line of salvation. There is an element that may or may not be salvific but it is not the best way to think about what revival meant. Christ didn’t dwell on salvation. It was merely a part of the whole process to complete life in Him. Our lens of the work of what Christ wants to do in us should be greater. We need to challenge ourselves to a better more scriptural goal.

The aim should be complete life in Him, devout discipleship in the image of Christ, not simply salvation.

The New Covenant calling was total discipleship. Check everything on the beach and walk each day with the Messiah, your life will change, you won’t go back to work tomorrow as a fisherman, or back to the ways of the world, you will walk with the King each and every day from this point forward in His kingdom of discipleship. Your life will never look the same because you are now living in redemption, you’re walking towards total transformation into the image of Jesus back to Eden. Every care is cast on Him and you’re living in complete faith. You are part of the solution to bring peace to chaos and cultivate intimacy in Christ.

-Dr. Will Ryan This is the Way of Covenant Discipleship (Part III)


I see and here a lot of Christians describing the desire for “revival” and it often makes me wince. Jesus brought revival (new life to the spiritually dead – which is the meaning of the word itself) with the intention of moving people towards a life of complete devotion as disciples. When a mature believer is seeking “revival” it seems “off” to those that understand the Biblical stories and definition of revival. It may seem as if they have an elementary understanding of Biblical discipleship. Sometimes it comes off as an indicator that they themselves aren’t mature “doers”, essentially if they were mature in their understanding, they should already be claiming that life and not asking for it or desiring it again. To say it differently, mature Christians shouldn’t be looking for revival of themselves, they are already alive in Christ and should be displaying fruit and shepherding others into revived new life in Christ. They have life and are given everything they need in Christ; they just need to claim it and be devoted to walk in it. They don’t need to be reborn over and over again. That is contrary to the message of the gospel. Revival Biblically should bring a dead person, community, or nation into new life. However, I also understand that when people use the word “revival” what they often mean is they have the desire for Biblical renewal; but when they use the word “revival” it might seem like they aren’t theologically grounded or possibly not in a good place (which could even infer wondering about the authenticity of their salvation.)


In nearly every case (with the only exception being if you choose to interpret the prodigal as a revival), the word revival is used to apply to a community not an individual. However, if I am part of a larger movement of revival it would also be proper to say that I personally experienced the revival (if the group experienced it, I was part of the group and therefore also experienced it as a group but also individually.) But theologically that is a modern way of thinking. By Biblical context the term should take on a primary context by which it is applied to a community not an individual. One of the modern age interpretations we are challenged with is we don’t really think this way very much anymore. Our culture today tends to be based upon the individual needs of myself rather than the needs of the community. We are plagued with a self-centered desire to apply things intended in the OT to be communal to simply be about “me.” We might need to adjust our context of interpretation.

I think there is a wonderful place for renewal of mature believers. X44 is involved with several Renewal ministries. But Biblical renewal is different than Biblical Revival.

In every example of “revival” in the Bible (and there actually aren’t many), revival is shepherded by those walking in devotion to Yahweh.


Samuel sees revival in Israel (1st Samuel 7: 1 – 13.) Samuel we know of as one of the most devout OT disciples- through his devotion he leads Israel (in part) back to the Lord.

Revival in the Times of King Asa. (Second Chronicles 14 – 15.) Asa was the third king after Solomon. Chapter 14 tells us how he destroyed the centers of idolatry, some of which had been set up by Solomon in his later years to please his foreign wives. The Lord blessed his efforts, guided him, gave him security, with long periods of peace and prosperity.

Elijah. (First Kings, chapter 18.) Elijah was tested because he had to rely upon God to supply every need, including food, water and protection. It was Elijah (and God) against the rest of the world, and what followed was the world found or feared Yahweh.

Revivals during the Reign of King Jehoshaphat of Judah. (2nd Chronicles 19 – 20.) & The Reign of King Hezekiah of Judah 2nd Chronicles 29 – 32, and Isaiah 36 – 39 Scholars are on the fence of whether these were true revival or not. The prophets sought revival but was it genuine?

The Reign of King Josiah of Judah (2nd Chronicles 34 – 35.) This story marks the last of the revivals during the period of the kings of Israel and Judah. Although there had been a number of higher points, the story has been largely one of decline, spiritually, morally, and socially, to the point where God allowed both of these kingdoms to be destroyed. In other words, the revivals didn’t stick. They didn’t have lasting fruit. Some might even say they were simply hyper sensational. As we have found on the other occasions, “devotion” to God rises and falls. There is very little steady growth. Perhaps it lasted a generation but likely not.


You might also consider Daniel 9 and Nehemiah 8 and some will argue for Revival in the New Testament but that is difficult by biblical definition without some theological gymnastics (as I have described pertaining the prodigal parable.)



When I hear people say things like, “and the revival started through the people not the pastors or any leaders” I have mixed feelings or might again wince. In some way I totally agree, as I have identified the church hasn’t looked much like fervent disciples from the top. In this way these statements don’t surprise me. But on the other hand, revival comes to those Biblically that are dead not alive in Christ. The better Biblical posture is to pray that Jesus would move you as a He did His disciples to shepherd others to a full or whole life in Christ. But I also believe it is possible for individuals and communities to come to God without shepherding, that just isn’t the Biblical picture that we get. But in God all things are possible. 


My hardship continues in that our modern evangelical church looks very little like those Jesus anointed to bring life – those in devotion with the father, those that have intimate knowledge of the father shepherding others into the same place, those that left their old lives on the beach and lived totally redeemed lives. Today most Christians can’t pray for 45 minutes let alone all night as Jesus asked those that were clearly in the trajectory of covenant discipleship (and still failed). 2000 years later we should look more like disciples (or Jesus) than ever, yet we seem to have digressed compared to the first century description of the disciples that we have; our lack of devotion enabled by much of the church is likely the problem.

Historically, revivals are hit and miss, only last for a short time, and generally do not have positive long-term effect on a community. But people sure do love to brag that they were there or part of it (which also makes me wince). However, renewed discipleship living in a covenant with Christ brings sustaining powerful life and Jesus’ community to every heart it touches. With that said, I am personally willing to be a part of any Jesus movement and pray for the best! You never know what God might do! 


If we are praying for Revival of those that need life, we first need the body of Christ to get back to the recipe given, to claim the life they already have and to return to a whole-hearted devotion of checking the idolatry on the beach and walking each day with the master. Devotion to Jesus means living perpetually in renewal. Bringing people to new life hardly matters if we aren’t willing to shepherd them into deeper discipleship. I pray daily that the dead come to life and also be transformed into disciples, I pray every day that God may use me that way… but until we get the great commission transparently communicated as “all in” discipleship into mature believers within the church, we are going to have a hard time shepherding the rest of the world to revival. 


Some people thrive on emotion, others are turned off by the mere word of revival because of its association with hyper – sensationalism or “OVER” emotional stimulation. I won’t touch on this much, as I think a personal emotional encounter with God is sometimes very warranted (although I don’t identify with “Captain Kirk” much here as I am more of the theological “Live long and prosper, Dr Spock”, but to each there own before the Lord, who are we to judge.) The better concern is rooted in authentic works of the spirit vs imitating an act of the spirit that leads some to distrust. If your “dropping feathers” or anything else to engineer what looks like the spirit you are promoting falsity not truth and that obviously is counter to what God wants of us. Much of the revival language today revolves around a “sovereign move of God” and therefore relegates spiritual growth in a community to whether God will do it or not based upon us pleading or finally “allowing” it. This is also poor theology and sending people down the wrong path. God is ALWAYS ready and willing to revive or renew and desires that individually and as a communal whole for His bride the church. It is also worth noting that when you regularly lead out of emotion rather than let God or the spirit lead, people question the motif. God loves people more than any self-declared “intercessor” ever could…

The Biblical model is that God brings revival to those that need new life using those that have claimed life once and for all and live devoted and continually renewed to that life and the kingdom community of Jesus.


Frank Viola is one of my favorites. Finding Organic Church is an excellent read. Here is a quote from the book on revival: “What is needed in the body of Christ is not restoration. It’s not even revival. What is needed is a revolution—a complete and radical change from top to bottom, a new sighting of Jesus Christ and His church, and a change of both mind-set and practice. To put it bluntly, we need a revolution in our understanding of the Christian life. We need a revolution in our practice of the church. And we need a rev­olution in our approach to church planting.”

I agree with Frank, much of our problem isn’t simply “more” revival it’s a complete paradox change within the body of Christ. I think we nearly agree 100% in regard to our thoughts on revival. My only concern with Frank’s take is that I get nervous with the word “revolution” in a Jesus context. Jesus was clearly not about Revolution in the sense that we think of the term today. I know that isn’t what Frank means, but I personally am hesitant to use the term here. The term Revolution today brings idea of war and disunity where I believe Revival and Renewal should be framed in peace, love, and mercy that Jesus imaged in humility. 


Unfortunately, a lot of revivals have been about the popularity of people. The events are centered around the hype of the famous “shepherd” rather than Jesus Himself. It is interesting that in John 6 Jesus also seems to turn away people that may just following the hype of the event. Too many people have chosen a pastor personality over Jesus and that has had devastating effects on the body of Christ. On the other hand, not every revival has been plagued by this. 


You sometimes here people saying things like they are “chasing after” the spirit which can also be a sign of immaturity and shallow theological thinking. As I understand that what they likely mean is they have a desire to be a part of a community that is experiencing God, there is a disconnect. Healthy believers experience the spirit daily, there shouldn’t be a “chasing after” as if the spirit is a wild animal that needs be captured. If you are in Christ, the Spirit is already in you and desires to fill you up and simply needs your inviting continual devotion. In John 6 there were crowds coming to “watch or chase” Jesus and His response was to invite them in deeper communion. They are essentially turned away. This is a picture of people chasing after Jesus but when they get there, He calls them to His definition of discipleship, and they aren’t willing to enter. This is my hesitancy with people “chasing after” “revival” – Jesus didn’t seem to be into that. He was into discipleship. Did it open the door? Perhaps, (I am sure that happened) but we don’t seem to get a clear picture of that or see it as the ideal or prescriptive. What we get are stories of those that He invites after a period of walking with Him in intimacy not chasing for a momentary experience. That again seems “opposite” to the message we get with Jesus. That said, everything should be in balance. There isn’t anything wrong with going to a revival. If something points to Jesus I want to be a part of it. If Jesus is here in our midst, I want to commune with Him! 


I am on the other side of Calvinism (Free Will) but I admittingly share some skepticism of this event (Asbury) and other revivals as most of my Reformed brothers and sisters are skeptically wondering, “haven’t we progressed past the shallow revivalism of the past and moved towards more stability in our faith?” Unfortunately, I don’t think we as the body of Christ have. Some have, but not most of the church.

I am however hopeful and prayerful about Asbury. My response is simply “AMEN.” In this way I am not attempting to judge anything or anyone, whether they are mature or not, whether it is genuine, hyper-sensational, emotionally driven, or even engineered. I simply say and pray “AMEN.”

How do we know if it is a work of God? I don’t know for sure that we ever will. My typical indicator (which is borrowed from someone) goes something like, “It isn’t how high you jump in the moment but how straight you walk when you land.” I pray for the fruit and healing of the kingdom. It is good (tov) to desire such things.

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Etymology of a prayer shawl

Usually when I speak at a conference or church, I wear a prayer “scarf” around my neck. Technically the ones I usually wear (or any that are various colors) are more commonly called a keffiyeh also known in Arabic as a shemagh, and are the traditional headdress worn by men in middle East counties. In Israel these scarves are generically called prayer shawls even though they are not necessarily worn by those who would be known to pray. They are also part of battle or war clothing. Let me explain to you how these scarves evolved and their roots in the Bible.

The Exodus took place ROUGHLY 3500 years ago, in the 890th year before the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians likely in 421 BCE although this is controversial, as most have learned 586/7 BCE. The Exodus therefore dates at either 1310 BCE (or 1476 BCE). Either way, the idea of wearing these scarves dates back about 3500 years and has its roots in the Bible. In other words, Moses literally wrote the book on the prayer scarf 3500 years ago.

We find the instructions in the last paragraph of the Shema שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל “Hear, O Israel” which is a Jewish prayer that serves as a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services. Its first verse encapsulates the monotheistic essence of Judaism: “Hear, O Israel: YHWH is our God, YHWH is one.” Torah Observant Israelites were instructed to wear a prayer shawl and find refuge in Yahweh. The Tassles (tzitzit) remind you of who you are as IMAGE BEARERS that are no longer in slavery but are free to live redeemed and free representing Yahweh. This exodus or redemption motif becomes a major recursive theme throughout scripture.

The instruction is found twice in the TORAH, or the five Books of Moses. First in Numbers 15:37-41 and the more Jewish English Sefaria Community Transliteration is the best for understanding the dynamics of the Tallit:

“And Hashem (God) said to Moshe (Moses) saying: Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them [that they must] make for themselves tzitzit upon the corners (Kenaph) of the clothes for generations, and on the tzitzit give a string of techelet (BLUE). And they shall have for themselves tzitzit and they will see them and they will remember all of the commandments of Hashem and they will do them, and they will not stray after their hearts and eyes so that they shall not pursue after them. So that they will remember and adhere to all of my commandments and will remain holy to their God. I am Hashem your God who took you out of the land of Egypt to be for you a God. I am Hashem your God.”

The rabbis taught that in each tzitzit (tassle) there should be seven white threads and one blue thread. When the temple was destroyed this art of using the dye of the chilazon mollusk for the blue color was lost and Jews began crafting shawls in various colors. (Although not all Jews agreed that this was permissible). The idea is later reiterated in Deuteronomy 22:12. The number 22 is associated with the idea of completeness. This later might have become a wordplay when Jesus said be complete as I am complete pointing to the Shema and Torah. Interestingly before Deuteronomy was ascribed chapters this part of the Shema was still considered to be in the 22nd part of it. Here it is reiterated that Tzitzit should be worn on the tallit gadol (prayer shawl).

Another point of interest is that the Tzitzit shares its root word with the Hebrew for ‘lock of hair’, or ‘dreadlock’. For example, in the Ezekial 8:3 an angel grabs the prophet “by the tzitzit of [his] head;” he could be said to be “dragged by his hair.” (It is thought that this prophet was of the nazarite vow by which hair was a sign of what is sacred and set apart.) Their hair became their tassles. In other words, tzitzit are visible signs of your commitment to God or a vow to be set apart.

NOTE: (Kiddushin 34a) would imply that a woman could wear tzitzit but were not expected to which is based on an interpretation of “sons” of Israel. The problem is “sons” in Hebrew is usually gender neutral. But you may hear this and it is why traditional Jewish women don’t always wear tassles.

X44 Mission: Expedition 44 is a covenant community dedicated to cultivating a discipleship culture that is wholly devoted to King Jesus. X44 represents the modern-day remnant of those that are set apart. Therefore, I think it is fitting to wear a “scarf” that signifies a prayer shawl when I am teaching the Bible and have prayed that I be part of sacred space. So essentially Israel was instructed to wear these prayer shawls to remind them of everything God in their lives: their covenant, their family, their community, their law and that is why I also have chosen to wear one.

A major tenet of observant Torah practice is that A WHOLE PERSON IS A HEALED PERSON. Deuteronomy 22 is about SHALOM – balance, being completely whole, or healed from anything of the world.  DELIVERED – FREE – OF THE WORLD – SET APART. When you place your whole self on the Atar given to the Lord you pray that he would answer with a double portion which is actually innumerable. 44 Represents the double portion result from God of offering an all-in living sacrifice.

They were reminded of their covenant daily by the Shema, but even more so during festivals, communion of sacred things (temple and worship), weddings, funerals… and you ready for this… when they went to war. They would put their scarves over their heads to drowned out the world and find their place of peace and refuge in the midst of the worst turmoil and tribulation.

In Psalm 144:1 David says, “Train my fingers for war” which many people take as a battle verse, but it is sort of the opposite, David played the harp – The better translation may have been “May the Lord fight your battles as you worship Him.” Some know that the X44 emblem represents this verse. The line of the left shield or chalice is the 1 of the 44 and the right side is the 1 of the verse.

These scarves for 3500 years have been mobile prayer rooms.


If you go to Israel today you see people that look like they are flying… The prayer shawls take on a resemblance of flying WINGS. Remember the Deuteronomy 22 healing thing, it was believed that God protected you when you represented Him and kept Him at your heart. You lived a healthy or healed life.

Remember the story of The Woman Who Touched Jesus’ Garment in (Mark 5:21-34)? Perhaps you should read it again.

The Woman was bleeding for 12 years was healed when she touched what? The korner, the Kenaph or the Tassle of Jesus cloak.  Jesus was likely wearing his Tallit and she was healed… Power had left him….There is healing in the wings. Malachi 4:2, NASB: But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and frolic like calves from the stall.

WINGS have religious meaning. We might say, RISE TO THE FATHER which is a Metaphor for meeting Jesus.

When we die Jesus meets us, we rise to Him. We also aren’t totally healed until we meet Jesus. But these wings are a sign of that – CS LEWIS says that we get a picture or a MOSAIC of that healing here on Earth and Jesus says bring Heaven to Earth right here right now. We are His agents to bring Healing and meet Jesus intimately in sacred places which are representative of removing the world and focusing completely on Him: RISING TO THE FATHER.

So why do I wear this scarf? Because it signifies me as one who still believes that God wants to see His people live in freedom completely healed of this world, Risen to the father in constant communion. – The scarf is a visible picture of me and our x44 community and reminds us to claim each day as one that is healed and redeemed.



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Ideas for a better scriptural “church” experience [ORGANIC]

What would a first century Acts 2:42 church look like today? Perhaps the evolution of the church 2000 years later straying far from the prescription we were given is ok, but perhaps it isn’t! Here are some things that might change should we take a mindset to return to the Acts like church.

  • Create a Christ as the only King – kingdom Jesus culture.
  • Reduce the world in the church. The church should have the mindset of an “alien to this world” outpost and be undefiled or protected from the world. (Most embassies have locked gates and are selective about who may enter their courts.)
  • Encourage a Love God and Love others environment. Be agents of peace.
  • Promote ALL-IN Kingdom Discipleship first and foremost.
  • Offer less “sermon type messages” from a singular or main “preacher” (too many people end up with an inclination towards a person, not Jesus.) This is “give me a king” ideology, which is opposite of what we should be looking for or desiring, and has the tendency to create a CEO “power over” approach not the “power under” method that Jesus modeled to us.
  • Be ok with small numbers and intimacy (but have a plan to respond to growth).
  • Consider the fact that most first century churches were less than 70 and split or planted a new church when they grew past that number.
  • Everyone needs to think as a shepherd: 1,3,12,70 – continual steps within a journey.
  • Family and fellowship (communion) based – driven Lifestyle.
  • More regular testimony in life, living, and assembly.
  • More spirit led meetings – but also not chaos driven assemblies (guidelines clearly established and communicated – shepherded)
  • Shepherded by those that fit the biblical qualification of elders (mature believers who have proven fruit), and if you don’t have anyone that meet the description, you don’t have them until you do, they come as a representation of the body as those that are recognized (not voted or elected by one or a few) as bearing fruit and modeling maturity in Christ.
  • Learned Women and Men should be encouraged to teach, those that have not been discipled and gifted in teaching (4-14 year of dedicated study and have been commissioned) should remain more silent (in terms of teaching) in assembly unless giving testimony and participatory worship as they are shepherded.
  • Continual Teaching more than preaching directive of discipleship.
  • More circular engagement, less rows (possibly tables to encourage study -not simply listening) -Mix up the elements each week to appeal to diversity and learning styles and change the meeting locations regularly and take field trips to teach like Jesus did – know and minister in your area.
  • Less Business CEO atmosphere, more organic worship & servant led atmosphere which is consistently described by the -washing of feet- (Less leaders from the top, more leaders from the bottom -servant humility mindset) Christoformity
  • More of a sacred orthodox approach, & less of an evangelical “American” event-oriented approach
  • We shouldn’t compete or desire to be like the world, let them desire to be like you (as the image of Jesus).
  • Less cracker-grape juice communion and more festival feasts interaction which was the intent of communion in scripture.
  • More transparency in the messages, less hierarchy speak in ways that build unity, not promote division.
  • Stress continued commitment to discipleship over one-time salvific thinking. The pre-eminent call of Jesus was to make disciples, salvation was a small part of what Jesus commanded and we have often made it out to be the main thrust of the gospel. Communicate a better gospel message.
  • Emphasize more sharing of broader gifts of the body in the midst of the body not a few people leading from the front.
  • Continual encouragement of the body from those that teach and shepherd the rest of the shepherds (often called elders). This is often forgotten or seldom exercised in churches today and was the main staple of shepherding in the first churches.
  • Create mentor / shepherd based groups with accountability models (strategic checkups with how the body is tracking). Care about what is happening in the flock and actively pursue them, let your actions communicate your heart for the flock.
  • Smaller family group models seeking to find your “tribe” (encouraging families to experiment with others to find your people). Work to create intimate life groups that have similar vision and interests.
  • Encourage families and couples to be counselled and provide Biblical availability to meet with a “coach” -We need people to take responsibility for checkups with the flock (intentional calendar and scheduling meetings). Coaching to be less like the world and more like Jesus should be a regular and steady interaction that each person receives from shepherds and peer accountability.
  • Encourage these smaller families to “lead” the bigger assembly together different weeks (week 1 group 1, week 2 group 2 etc) Shepherds shepherd everyone else to a better place, intentional coaching through messages, testimony, and other gift sharing should be a staple of a Jesus Community.
  • Less money to staffing and overhead and more towards helping neighbors and building community to help the body of Christ (purposeful cultures in Christ eventually should all be giving the majority of their time to Jesus, not just the pastoral staff). When more people begin to share the service, less will need to be paid. In the first century church pastors weren’t paid, I don’t think the evolution of paying them is wrong, but our mindset is off.
  • The early church regularly sent “apostles” from established churches to create new Jesus cultures. This should be a regular plan of commissioning. Every church culture likely had established several other Jesus cultures as a result of their one. Churches lack this aspect of commissioning and planting today.
  • Less and smaller buildings, encourage smaller more intimate gatherings, sharing of common smaller meeting spaces and homes which encourage planning of shared space together and shows better stewardship. Most churches today have one meeting in a multi-million dollar building with 1000 people. The early church has a much smaller home/meeting area that fit around 70 and was used nearly all week. The same 1000 people could meet in a less expensive building and spread out over 14 meetings having a more intimate assembly and spending far less money. But your culture has to teach Jesus over the worldly schedule to accomplish this. Most people today will not schedule their work around their Jesus life to make this happen. The method of the mindset isn’t in line with Jesus’ model of discipleship, and this is largely because we are bringing the ways and the people of the world into space that should only be sacred.
  • We should attain to a more missional approach to the ongoing study of God’s word (a scope and sequence with strategic plan and direction of teaching) Everyone eventually should be in seminary style learning (4-14 years of intentional everyday training to become an all-in disciple and bring others to that place). We should exhibit a lifelong promotion of discipleship and purposefully plan and steward this kind of directive within the church assemblies.
  • A better digital ministry strategy: Tracking cameras, online testimonials and stories to better communicate the story of what is happening in the Jesus culture, the world should know and desire to be a part of this. In First century they often met open air so people could see and hear the message and lifestyle. Today we can accomplish this through technology. Let the world watch well.
  • Create a culture of deeper shepherding from the teachings: deeper study, deeper devotion, deeper prayer, deeper worship, deeper commitment to first century scriptural tenets of Christianity (Better allegiance to Jesus).
  • Communicate in thought and action that relationships and people matter more than events. Invest your time in relationships not things that will pass. When you do plan events, plan and communicate well as if you are doing it directly for Jesus.
  • Provide weekly training beyond the in-person experience: Offer deeper challenges every week through devotionals, books, or content and community that builds on the message (get away from the idea that a simple Sunday message is enough) and create regular diversity to appeal to different learning styles.
  • Build a better digital Jesus community (shepherd spiritual maturity out of conflict, encourage tough questions, welcome sceptics and work through better answers.) We can do this very well today online in groups, but we also need to emphasize in person groups.
  • We need to return to caring for the widows and needy. The government today does a far better job at this than the church does. This should be one of the things that the world knows the church for and sees the image of Christ through.
  • Build a better plan for kids and teen teaching: Mentor programs that bridge the kids with other adults, train parents in biblical partnering with the church, include kids in all aspects of the regular group (including teaching and testimony). Think less programming and more life experiential training and education. In a Hebraic mind simply doing a task was selfish if you didn’t invite someone else to learn from you and share in the experience. You missed the spiritual blessing.
  • Keep the body of believers as primarily the “BODY OF BELIEVERS” don’t water down the experience. Encourage individuals to build relationships to Jesus outside of the main sessions that are intended to develop deeper devotion to Christ, evangelism should primarily be done as part of life relationships not as an “event” or “show” -Keep it organic as a Jesus journey that is nurtured and cultivated.
  • Keep the church assembly sacred (limit things that resemble acts of the world).
  • Be set apart by immersive experiences to the body and the community (practice what we teach). The church should aid in administration and planning of strategic experiences as an identifier of the multi-faceted gifting of the body.
  • Intentional communications strategy: Address communication gap internally with the people who are already a part of the church. Keep in communication but don’t delude or defile the worship through it.
  • Think undefiled sacred, pre-planned, strategic, intentional, purposeful assembly… but at the same time build a culture of continual unending worship.
  • Communication of a clear discipleship plan and path: What is the missional purpose of a disciple. This sounds simple but I doubt too many people would answer the question today in our churches similarly. Our mission should be known and continually communicated and lived out. Every person in your Jesus community should know the ultimate goal for everyone is all in discipleship.
  • More organic sharing and worship throughout the week outside of planned assembly. All of Jesus culture should be shepherded, purposeful, and planned, but open to adjustment as the spirit leads. Everything (all work) should be approached as missional unto Jesus. Less work-toil within the world and more fellowship-joy within the body should be the goal.
  • Pray and desire less worldly money and more spiritual blessings.
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Encouragement & Intercession for Turkey

But encourage one another day after day, as long as it still called, “Today,” lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  Hebrews 3:13

Join us for a “house of prayer” style service at MTZN this Sunday February 12 at 6Pm to intercede for Turkey

I often say that you don’t need to know the biblical languages, especially with the modern internet helps that we have (such as the free Bible Hub interlinear) but at the same time I find myself saying all the time, “If we/they only knew the Greek!” Hebrew 3:13 is one of those cases.

The word for encourage is parakaleite. The literal interpretation is to come or call alongside of. We just returned from a renewal retreat in Mexico with married couples. It was INCREDIBLE. I have been involved in Renewal retreats since I was 16 and have often said they are the most significant thing I will likely ever do in the Kingdom; lives are radically transformed and largely because of community intercession and encouragement. When I share a talk at the weekend renewal retreat, called Tres Dias on the Holy Spirit, I emphasize the three roles of the Holy Spirit are to convict, to teach and to counsel.

The Holy Spirit is our constant companion and inexhaustible aid.  He prays on our behalf.  He brings to our minds the truth of the Torah and Jesus. He is the archetype of encouragement.

Christ also offered much of the same to us in human form while on earth. I love the squirrel moments, and theologians have long, scratched their head over the trinity and Jesus in light of the spirit. (The concept of the Trinity isn’t discussed or debated enough in evangelical Christianity. Was the Spirit of God Jesus in the OT, then God in the form of Man, and did he send “His” spirit, or a separate person of a spirit etc…) But just to keep this post simple, when Jesus was on earth, He embodied all of these “spirit” things in human form, and then at Pentecost sent the Holy Spirit to continue that work in and through us.

The author of Hebrews (likely Paul IMO) certainly knew the deep spiritual connection and likely even wrestled with the spirit / Jesus (discussion) of the Trinity when He used this verb in the imperative. Specifically, you and I are commanded to admonish each other as the image of Christ on earth in physical representation of the Spirit. We are the literal hands in feet of Jesus empowered by His Spirit which is the representation of the Holy Spirit.

In this way, I refer to the Holy Spirit as the archetype example of what we are called to be as agents of encouragement and intercession. You are the physical manifestation of the image of the Holy Spirit to your spouse, family, & those in your community and the world. This is called Christoformity, representing a Jesus culture in every part of your community identity. We are aliens, living in a place that is not our nation. We are of a different kingdom. We are uncomfortable with the world and the world is uncomfortable with us. Our image should intercede for & ruffle everything the systems of the world represent.  Remember when Jesus said that to be friends (the verb is phileo – brotherly affection) with the world is to be an enemy of God? Yes, we are going to reclaim everything in His name, but until every knee bows these are rival kingdoms to Jesus and that is why we are commanded to love, encourage, and even intercede for our neighbor as well as our enemy.

Are you attentive to the Spirit and what Jesus desires to do in you and your community? Are you completely given to this identity in Christ? How can we be Jesus to each other here and now and to the other side of the world; to those in turkey that are pleading for your spiritual intercession?

How will the Holy Spirit move to action in you today?


Pray that a great awakening will happen in the heart and minds of the people in this nation. 

1. For those on the ground to find and help those still bury under concrete

2. For the new teams coming from all over the world and country to help. I can just imagine the relief it will be to those on the ground first but also what a task it will be to work with so many different cultures and languages.

3. For the 1000 of people who are homeless.

4. For God to sustain the ones in the cold. 

5. For our team leader here who will be leaving in the morning with 3 Turkish brothers. They will be driving east to assess how M company,  our team and our fellowship can help. 

6. For all of us who still have to go on with life as normal. School for me and the girls and preparing to open the coffee shop for Peter. 

7. For us to learn how this nation grieves. How our friends are handling the new and how we can come along side of them. Some are at total peace and some can’t take their eyes off the screen. 

My good missionary friends the Nordquists share, “Not sure what the future will hold, but we know the one who does. So for now we keep our eyes on Him our comforter and guide. Our good, good Father.”

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Koinonia – CTS SEYPHER 2-23

I just wrote an article for the CTS SEYPHER Winter Newsletter, if you’re not on that list here is the article and link to join.

Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being in one spirit and purpose. Philippians 2:1-2 NASB

The Greek word used here is koinonia. You might be surprised to know that the word itself simply meant “what we have in common.” In fact, in an ancient context, it even took on the connotation of those things that “what had little value.” It’s strange to think of the original definition in this way for a word we have translated as the modern day “church” and have elevated to such a pedestal! The idea of using this word (instead of more prominent word ekklesia -which should be translated “assembly,” not “church”) was that we are all on common footing or equal in God’s eyes as the functioning body of Christ’s kingdom by our gifts. It also was a fellowship of the ordinary that could become extraordinary when humbly offered to the service of the Lord. In this fellowship there is no hierarchy of economic status or social position or hypothesized authority. It is leading from beneath in the upside-down Kingdom of Jesus. The underlying idea is based on the Royal Law of holding others in higher regard than yourselves, in a society where what we have is given up for the benefit of others. That explains why the early church continued to sell what they had to support those that newly joined their fellowship. We don’t really think that way anymore in terms of the church, but we should! That was one of Jesus’ primary messages to us that seems to have been lost in our modern rendition of “church.”

CTS is a major part of the church kingdom. In Christ’s church your best is offered to the King for the benefit of the kingdom and community. Unfortunately, the world and even most evangelical churches have lost or forgotten this and have done exactly the opposite in elevating the “positions” of the church to look more like rulers, CEOs, and kings rather than servants. This is why what CTS is doing is so important. We aren’t just training how to be devout or exhibit a better exegesis; although we do that, what we are doing is cultivating or nurturing a better worldview for the discipleship culture that Jesus laid the foundations for. There is only one King, and his name is Jesus. CTS is committed to returning to a better theological mindset of training kingdom communion. 

Koinonia is about changing our view of community. It’s about removing the natural instinct for self-promotion and leading from a heart of submission and servanthood like the Master gave by living example and teaching. The heart of discipleship is in relationships and that is what this season is about. If you are new to CTS, welcome to the fellowship, we are super excited to have you in our community and are looking forward to your gifting and the fellowship of believers. 


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VISION – חָזָה

Have you ever read Obadiah? Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if you said no or if you don’t remember it, it is only 21 verses!

In Hebrew, the first sentence reads, ḥāzôn ʿÔbadyâh (English Transliteration). Yes, you read that right, the first sentence is only two words! The Hebrew word ḥāzôn is from the root חָזָה (ḥāzâ), translated normally as the English word “vision.”  In Hebrew, letters are pictograph representations of what they mean. The consonants in this word are Chet – Zayin – Hey, which suggest a cut (weapon) that reveals (behold).  It would seem that Obadiah is delivering a verbal weapon that might divide. Strange to us that the biblical word “vision” is also rooted in division, but even in English the language carries the same root words, but you probably haven’t ever considered the connection of both words in this way. (Vision/Division)

This is called a contronym in Hebrew. I talk a lot about contronyms in our YouTube videos and articles on Expedition 44 and other published works. You won’t find this anywhere else; it is a bit of a “Dr. Ryan” branded word. Essentially a contronym in Hebrew means that something can bring similar results from one extreme to the other. The most common understanding of a contronym is found in the Hebrew word barak. It is one of the 7 words used to describe worship in Hebrew. (In English we just have one word, where in Hebrew they have 7.) The same word in Hebrew can mean to bless or to curse. In Hebraic thinking you would pray that what you consider to be your biggest curse in life could be laid before God at the altar and transformed by Him to be the biggest blessing of your life. In this same way, a “vision” from God can be interpreted and cause division by some but also when founded in the Lord and given fully to Him can result in great unity; the vision transforms into living through the eyes of God in Devotion and unity. Being in “COVENANT” with his plan for us and following in the spirit of unity should be the mission of all believers, unfortunately most churches exemplify division more than vision and unity. We should change that!

Today, my prayer for you is simple, it is that we are united in creating a covenant vision building a discipleship culture by which we understand what God asks of us and those we are shepherding and are enabled and commissioned to do what God is directing and has designed us to do for His kingdom.

My hope and prayer are that each of us through study and devotion bear the image of Jesus and His Kingdom to be transformed into “ALL IN” disciples and bring others this “VISION” of unity as we shepherd and model.

[1] Culver, R. D. (1999). 633 חָזָה. R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer Jr., & B. K. Waltke (Eds.), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed., p. 275). Chicago: Moody Press.

Dr. Will Ryan

“The LORD bless you and keep you,
Y’varech’cha Adonai v’yeesh’m’reicha.
יְבָ רֶ כְ ָך יְיָ וְ יִ שְׁ מְ רֶ ָך.

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Torah Today?

NOTE: The intended audience of this post is/was the participants of an X44 marriage conference in Mexico on Covenant Relationship, but I think everyone can appreciate the “Challenge!” Regardless of who you are, perhaps imagine you were just on the magnificent white beaches of Mexico with your spouse for a week where you completely focused on is your covenant relationship and now your back to your “previous life” trying to “flip” what you consider your “real” world from a backwards kingdom perspective.

…Well you have been home for almost 2 days now are you doing? Have you been “challenged?”

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.  Romans 15:4 NASB

Well, if you haven’t figured this out yet, I glean a lot from overanalyzing or “over studying” things. You might want even say it is in my DNA and perhaps it is or should also be in yours!

Sometimes knowing Greek and Hebrew is a tremendous blessing, and sometimes it’s a curse! This particular verse, I can’t simply just skim over. I find myself diving in before I can move to the next verse. The problems of syntax!!!

What’s interesting to me (or what makes me stop or get hung up on a verse like this) is the Greek (single) word, proegraphe. The problem is English doesn’t work like Greek and so we probably need five or six words to understand exactly what the single Greek word meant. In Greek syntax, it’s essentially the prefix pro added to the verb grapho. One word in Greek essentially takes on the idea in English of saying, “what was written before this particular time.” You may have interpreted that way, or you may not have. 

But when you’re thinking, like a Bible student, you ask the question what was written before this time? Any good Hebrew, listening, or reading from Paul would understand that it must be the Torah. In Hebraic mind it’s the only thing that was written for our instruction, everything else is simply a commentary. When Paul writes the statement, it’s the only established word of God, “the only completed Old Testament” at that time, and New Testament won’t come to existence as we know it or in the way that we read it until several hundred years later. Sure, there are scrolls that are considered sacred (like Isaiah for example), but they aren’t the Torah and much of them are only in oral form to the commoner, so they aren’t studied like the torah was. Interesting to think that what Paul is saying is that simply the Torah (not what we think of the complete Bible) is intended to preserve and encourage us that we might have hope. I bet no one reading this has ever consider that before!!! Most Christians, reading, the Torah simply think it isn’t very invigorating! But perhaps we should consider returning to the original word that God gave for those to follow him each and every day as a recipe for intimacy with God. We just don’t usually sit down with our spouses and start devotionals in Leviticus, but maybe we should! Perhaps that is part of the wayward problem of modern Evangelical Christianity seeming like a watered-down version of the kind of devotion Jesus was asking for.

In the first century, whether you were a Jew or gentile, if you followed Yahweh, you were taught the Torah constantly, and you had most of it, memorized and gave it careful and deliberate practice. When did we lose that?

Paul’s message would’ve sounded like a broken record to those that grew up with it. However, to us 2000 years later, the message is almost lost in translation because we no longer have any idea of what it meant to live in such devotion. This message of devotion should really be more relevant now than ever; but it seems, we’ve walked further and further away from the sacred approach to God and his son Jesus, than we have brought ourselves closer to it. Our Trajectory since the cross was intended to have become more devout as disciples of Jesus but in actuality, we have gone the other way and are less devout than Israel. Thats a problem. The evangelical American church is likely less devout than wayward Israel and has no concept of what Jesus described as leaving everything on the beach to completely follow Him.

Paul’s message is that if we put Torah into our heart, we won’t be hopeless. First century followers of Christ, understood that without being dedicated to the Scriptures stored in the depths of our heart it would be almost impossible to exist and persevere and therefore, hope. The context of all scripture is based in the Torah and gives foundational application for what Jesus taught.

Jesus was a devout observer and teacher of the Torah and encouraged us to live by His example. 

People often ask me do we still need to follow the Torah or live by the Old Testament Judaic standards… I usually think what a silly question!!! But to be clear, of course we don’t “have to” we’re complete and free from the law in Jesus… but that’s likely the wrong question for a devout follower of Jesus! Unfortunately, much of the law over 1000 years turned into religious hypocrisy… they completely missed the mark!!!! The law served as a stopgap to hold them sacred and holy until the messiah could complete what was given to them and truly reign in and through their lives. Today since we have the Messiah, it’s important to realize that He still observed Torah. This is what is written in His heart and should also be written in ours. 

Some people miss this, but in the Torah context, all of the scriptures were stored in the temple; when our bodies become the temple of the Holy Spirit, it doesn’t just mean that God himself dwells in this place; it means that all of this Word is supposed to do well in this place as well! How are you doing with that? Are you a walking Bible?

Last week, as Pastor Dr. Steve and I preached covenant community, you might have noticed that nearly everything we taught had its roots in the Torah. What’s even “worse” is that some of it seemed brand new! It’s a return to the foundation that God provided for us, that we might live by the covenants in truth that were established to guide us and might be completed and fulfilled and made alive (literally) in the Messiah, King Jesus! 

The word of God and specifically the Torah is our access to God’s purposes and our compass for hope.

The goal of the Torah was perseverance and encouragement, and we need that more than ever today…. And you and your spouse in your marriage might specifically need it more two days after a marriage conference than any time before. I bet you’re feeling the pressure already! 

I’m sure you’ve never considered the Torah in your life before now, but I want you to consider it as the “you can do it” cheer to your covenant. 

A good friend of mine puts it like this,

“Torah is not the 613 regulations. It is the lives, the songs, the stories and the history of all those who previously attempted to follow. They are just like us—in need of motivation and support. You and I are just like them—seeking purpose and meaning in the chaos of life. Paul reminds us that the good news of God doesn’t begin with Matthew. It begins with Moses.”

Perhaps you’re struggling today, perhaps you’re longing for the beach to be intimate with your spouse again…Perhaps you realized that what we call returning to the “real” world is actually just the world you are passing through and your “real” world in this backward kingdom is actually these moments of devotion. This mindset starts with the word of God… perhaps if you’re in turmoil or tribulation today, specifically with your spouse, it’s a reminder to start each day with the word of God and dive in!!! Being completely whole means to study each day… perhaps a five-minute devotion is a good start, but the context of the Torah was more like an hour a day… and the context of Jesus’ discipleship picture for us that the apostles carried out looked more like 4-5 hours of study a day. The way of the Messiah was to be a disciple completely emerged, each and every day in the scripture and intimate relations of the kingdom stored as a temple deep within you that was exuding in life action; that all of your “nephesh” might scream out the image of God to everyone you came in contact with. Together you can encourage and challenge your spouse to be fully devoted, “all in” and on the road to be a disciple, and it starts with a deeper understanding of scripture! 

May you be blessed on your journey!

Dr. Ryan

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David’s upbringing and the Midrash

One of my good friends Jana Diaz (who has been on some x44 films and taught at range nights with us) recently shared at our churches woman’s breakfast on the strength and upbringing of David’s tumultuous youth and transition as a king. Unfortunately, being a male, I was not allowed to attend although I am so very thankful for her incredible giftings as a teacher and her heart for a better Jesus understanding to a culture that seems lost in so many ways (-and I am not speaking merely salvifically.) So, as I did not hear her presentation, I am familiar with the content and traditional Jewish context of David’s upbringing. Whenever something is shared from a perspective of Jewish tradition there are always a lot of evangelical Christian eyebrows raised. Evangelicals often wonder, “if this is true, how can people that have been attending church their whole lives have no knowledge of things like this.” Then sometimes you get people questioning the source or even going as far as alluding that any information not found directly in the pages of the Bible is heretical. That way of thinking is always devastating to the unity of the church, and luckily to my knowledge there wasn’t any thoughts like that going around with my friend’s particular message. I only heard raving remarks and how much impact it had on the lives of the women gleaning from such a beautiful message. But at some point, nearly every Christian that dives into a biblical discussion with details they have never heard, they begin to question where someone learned about things. In this case and many others, it lies in the Jewish Rabbinical thought passed on mostly orally from generation to generation. In many ways it isn’t much different than the story of job that took many generations of being passed before it was penned or several other scriptural examples. Of course, Job is soundly part of the canon, and the Jewish rabbinical sources are not nor would anyone that is familiar with them treat them in the same way. But they are still incredibly useful to scholars and lovers of the Bible alike. I have been profoundly touched and strengthened in my discipleship as a result of reading them. Many of my messages of first century culture and older have been influenced by such works. So first let me share the story of David and his tumultuous upbringing. Then let me circle back to discussing the sources from which the following information comes from and shed light on how we might use or treat them.

First, let’s refamiliarize ourselves with much of the themed messages that we get from the biblical writings of David.

-I am wearied by my calling out, and my throat is dry. I’ve lost hope in waiting . . .

-More numerous than the hairs on my head are those who hate me without reason . . .

-Must I then repay what I have not stolen?

-Mighty are those who would cut me down, who are my enemies without cause . . .

-I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my mother’s sons.

-Out of envy for Your House, they ravaged me; the disgraces of those who revile You have fallen upon me . . .

-Those who sit by the gate talk about me. I am the taunt of drunkards . . .

We know of David’s hardship later in life, being pursued for 14 years after being promised to be king and often associate his feelings in the psalms with the turmoil of this stage of his life. But it seems these psalms aren’t limited to his later in life experiences, many of them describe his early life rather than later situations. Many remember when Samuel was looking for the next king that David was not presented. We get an inkling that he was being shunned by his family (“I have become a stranger to my brothers”), by the Torah sages who sat in judgment at the gates (“those who sit by the gate talk about me”) and by the drunkards on the street corners (“I am the taunt of drunkards”)? It seems that Davids’s hardships started long before he was being hunted by King Saul. In fact, when you dive in, you find that the 28 years of his life leading up to him being coronated as the king might not have been any better than the stories we know of his despair as he ran for his life.

David was born into the family of Jesse, who was the head of the sanhedrin. It might surprise you in such a prominent family that David was not permitted to eat with the rest of his family but was assigned to a separate table in the corner, or even treated like the animals. It is also thought that he was given the job of a lowly shepherd in hopes that he might be devoured by the lions and bears. Typically speaking a family of such stature would have likely hired help for those jobs. To understand the situation better I would point you towards the Midrashim; or specifically the Yalkut HaMachiri, as well as Sefer HaTodaah (section on Sivan and Shavuot) where you get the idea that David was more of the unwanted stepchild than one fit for a king. These sources also share that it was David’s mother, Nitzevet bat Adael, who continued to pour life into David and didn’t give up on him.

David’s father (translated as Yishai) was the grandson of Boaz and Ruth. The story of Ruth is interesting as it hardly mentions faith in God. I would suggest starting with our video series here. Yishai was likely ridiculed for his lineage from Ruth as she was a Moabite and according to the Torah, Boaz would have been forbidden to marry her. According to the sages, many devout Israelites were doubtful about the legitimacy of Ruth’s marriage to Boaz. You will notice when you read Ruth in the Bible there is a matter of a distant relative, however when you try to find record of this law in the Torah you likely won’t, at least it is unclear. Some scholars believe it to have been a rabbinically accepted and transmitted “oral law” that not all would have been familiar with or accepted, and certainly would have not been admirable in the Sanhedrin. You might remember that you were connected or personally responsible to 4 generations behind and 4 ahead. To make matters even worse, most evangelical Christians are not aware that Boaz died the night after his marriage after Ruth had conceived a son that would later be known as Oved (Obed) the father of Yishai. As you can imagine during that time the supposed marriage to a woman described by the amazing term “ESHET CHAYIL” was steeped in rumors and contempt with every scenario possible being alluded to. Was Boaz duped and murdered? This was likely worse than your typical Soap Opera of the 1980’s. There was also an idea of the retribution principle coming from God, that you get what you deserve and perhaps God had taken Boaz’s life because he was outside of the Torah.

In an ancient context they that lived by the idea of the retribution principle to mean that the only way you could essentially prove God was with you and you were honorable before Him, was if blessings reigned on you to 4 generations. In other words, time would tell over the next 4 generations displaying whether or not God had smiled on the union. In this case, it was said that most eventually considered Jesse’s household to have been blessed or redeemed or to be considered as of honorable decent, but many would still question him three generations later (because 4 had not been reached yet). As the ancient tale is told as handed from one generation to another; Yishai chose to make an honorable decision not continue to engage in marital relations with his wife. Surprisingly according to the acceptable situations of Rabbinical law, he could engage in relations with his Canaanite maidservant. This is where we start to see how the Rabbinical law was tainted and far from what God wanted of his people. This is also why the trajectory of Jesus treated much of the pharisaical contingents to be more opposite of His father than for Him.

This is where the story gets bizarre but is reminiscent of several of Biblical stories that are also a bit messed up based on the accepted culture. The maidservant felt compassion for Nitzevet and the two of them plotted a conspiracy saying, “Let us learn from your ancestresses and replicate their actions. Switch places with me tonight, just as Leah did with Rachel.” That night, Nitzevet conceived and Yishai remained unaware of the switch. Genesis 38 and Midrashim commentaries would tell us that as her pregnancy became apparent, Nitzevet would not embarrass her husband by revealing the truth of what had occurred. In the same way that her ancestress Tamar, who was prepared to be burned alive rather than embarrass Judah. Nitzevet took a vow of silence (which has parallels to the story of John the Baptist and Elizabeth) and like Tamar, would see blessings as her offspring would be the seed of the Messiah. By law Nitzevet could have been killed along with the fetus, but Yishai decided against it but is believed to have said that this child may not marry an Israelite which was the cultural way of disowning an illegitimate child without killing them. It was the expected action of a father which parallels the opposite response of the father in the story of the prodigal son that Jesus told and would no doubt have had the Pharisees understanding the implication to have been pointed at his 4th generational ancestry. It is also notable that David and Nitzevet may not have been allowed to live in the main house, but likely lived in the lower room or stable, which I am sure has your head spinning with messianic implication.

As you can imagine, now you can understand why David was nowhere to be found when Samuel visited the family to choose a king. It was common knowledge that he was treated as an outcast which is also confirmed in the psalm where David says he was a “stranger” to his brothers, the Hebrew word for stranger, muzar, is from the same root as mamzer—bastard, illegitimate offspring. In the psalms it was a recognizable idiom or play on words. He was likely the “butt” of every joke and probably even abused by his brothers and other family members and that is likely where the words “repay what I have not stolen” come from. You also may recall when Samuel came to choose the next king the text tells us:

At last Samuel said to Yishai, “Are there no lads remaining?”

He answered, “A small one is left; he is taking care of the sheep.”

If you read this in Hebrew you would notice something, Samuel says, “Are these all the lads?” Had he asked if these were all Yishai’s sons, Yishai would have answered affirmatively, that there were no more of his sons, since David was not given the status of a son. But he asks are there no lads remaining? In Hebrew this is very telling. It meant that either Samuel knew or God gave him the knowledge. We also might read into some of the other text,” David’s physical appearance alludes to the differing aspects of his personality. His ruddiness suggests a warlike nature, while his eyes and general appearance indicate kindness and gentility.2

It is said that Nitzevet ended her 28 years of silence that day as she wept for David in Joy. It showed that the lineage of her son was pure and undefiled. 3 and that Nitzevet exclaimed, “The stone that was reviled by the builders has now become the cornerstone!” as we read requoted in Psalms 118:22. 4

The Midrash tradition tells over and over how it was Davids mother that gave him the fortitude to face his adversaries and the dignity to rise above the worst of accusers. In fact, it is thought that David’s mother was the strength of His Psalms and the source of his incredible heart’s connection to the Lord.

It is also said that she spoke truth over him, and it came to be through the power of the Lord God almighty.

Why haven’t evangelicals ever heard this. Well, one reason is because scripture was written in a man only context. I am an Egalitarian and truly believe that the Bible and especially Jesus taught a very woman forward way of thinking compared to the cultural context. I love this aspect. But I also think that sometimes evangelical are afraid to open the floodgates. They may not truly believe that the bible can stand alone. This is unfortunate to me because I think as we examine the known biblical commentary, we expand our insight and love for Jesus and the father. David was said to have spoken a voice many years before his time that would go on to console and empower the remnant believers during the exile and diaspora. You likely picked up that this is an exodus like redemption story that will give way to David’s descendent the Messiah and the redemption of the world often described as the NEW EXODUS. The details on David’s mother don’t change the Biblical story, but they help us to understand what could be more of the full spectrum the grace of God has shown outside of the scriptures we accept as inerrant. I have also found that they lead me to a better understanding of the lens of God’s complete love for His people.


The final part of this article is intended to address concerns of Midrash source. As you have witnessed much of this story most evangelical Christians won’t know. Yet most traditional Jews and Messianic Jews will accept openly, nearly as if it were infallible scripture. Most of the Midrash was written from 400-1000AD. They are traditional rabbinical information and tales handed down from one generation to the next orally and finally put to writing when writing became dramatically easier. As I alluded to earlier, it isn’t much different than how we got the other parts of scripture handed down to us, these just came a little bit later and most scholars feel they take the shape more of historical documentation or commentary than they resemble scripture. If you follow the sources I have provided and are able to read them, you will quickly understand what I mean by this. I personally would hold them one step less than the regard I hold for a Josephus writing that most people are considerably more familiar with and pretty openly accept as factual history. Is every story real, likely not, but we may never know. Some are more believable and hold better context than others, but many paint a beautiful picture or mosaic that we can glean from such as the details of the story of Davids mother. If you are wondering if the story is true or accurate, you’re probably not seeing it for the beauty that it is.

  1. Siftei Kohen, Vayeishev
  2. Malbim
  3. Bereishit Rabbah 63:8
  4. Midrash Tanchuma
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Who are you pledging allegiance to?

No King But Christ.

Over the last few years, I have become increasingly less confident in America (and most non third world countries) as any kind of formidable place for God to co-exist. Many want to “bring back” the notion of God into our country and schools but it is no secret that we (those that hold to a no king but Christ perspective) don’t ever see that America was “God’s country” or having been founded with the notion that it might become that. It was simply founded as a free country and for that I am grateful; but it isn’t Israel, nor should it be viewed as an entity of Christ’s kingdom. My only reservation in this way of thinking is to the notion that I believe all things are being and going to be either reclaimed to this kingdom or simply annihilated (which by biblical definition means to mercifully put to a final rest.) make no mistake, the people in this “foreign” kingdom and all the others should be redeemed to Christ within “HIS KINGDOM,” but the nation itself is a “rival” to the Kingdom of God.

Recently I was doing some research for a potential Facebook marketing campaign for Covenant Theological Seminary (CTS) and came across this ad from Hillsdale Academy. As I have no issues with Hillsdale, and in fact, think the call to Christian Education is ESSENTIAL in Jesus’ Kingdom, the ad didn’t sit well with me. It shows an image of a small boy and girl with apprehensive looks on their face pledging allegiance while the ad asks if they will become good citizens. It didn’t sit well because I have 4 boys that we have home schooled in part, because of “allegiance” problems with our local (Christian) school. My point is why would we be training our children to be “allegiant” to a Rome like anti-god system of the world as Christians? Regardless, when we teach you can pledge loyalty to kingdoms today it severely muddies the waters of teaching what it means to truly be an undivided fully obedient disciple of Christ. Why as Christians are we trying to serve two masters?

As I continued to raise my eyebrow at this ad it opened some dialogue between myself and Matt Mouzakis from X44 (who by this time is helping me write the article) and we started getting deeper into framing the everyday issues with Christian’s approach to this kind of nationalism. You might be surprised to learn that the “Bellamy salute is a palm-out salute created by James B. Upham as the gesture that was to accompany the American Pledge of Allegiance, which had been written by Francis Bellamy. It was also known as the “flag salute” during the period when it was used with the Pledge of Allegiance. Bellamy promoted the salute and it came to be associated with his name. Both the Pledge and its salute originated in 1892. Later, during the 1920s and 1930s, Italian fascists and Nazi Germans adopted a salute which was very similar, attributed to the Roman salute, a gesture that was popularly believed to have been used in ancient Rome.[1] This resulted in controversy over the use of the Bellamy salute in the United States. It was officially replaced by the hand-over-heart salute when Congress amended the Flag Code on December 22, 1942.”(

The US switched from a “Heil Hitler” style Bellamy salute and Congress amended this “code” on December 22, 1942, when it passed Public Law 77-829, stating among other changes, that the pledge “be rendered by standing with the right hand over the heart.”[2]

As you can see, I carefully alluded to above, our flag salute was borrowed from Rome. It is exactly what the Bible was referring to as not taking two masters. In other words, this isn’t a maybe or might have been, our salute comes precisely from Rome and is EXACTLY what the Bible is talking about when it is challenging us to be “ALL IN” in our devout allegiance to Christ and not the systems and kingdoms of this world.

“Our identity is SOLELY with the King of the universe, not with any country or nationality or political party. When we are re-born into this new life, we are transferred into a new kingdom with a new citizenship.”

Dr. Will Ryan – This is the Way part III (2023)

The elephant in the room in this conversation is Paul’s citizenship. Not everyone in the ancient world had citizenship. It could be acquired through purchase or through birth. We need to ask what Paul made of it and how he viewed it because it is important to this conversation. Paul’s citizenship comes up in 3 instances in Acts: Acts 16:37-38, 22:25-28, and Acts 25. 

In Acts 16 Paul has been beaten and imprisoned and when it looks like something worse may be happening he pulls his Roman citizen card to escape. The privileges enjoyed by full citizens were wide-ranging: They could vote in assemblies and elections; own property; get married legally; have their children inherit property; stand for election and access public office; participate in priesthoods; and enlist in the legion, on top of that, according to Julian Law, a citizen could not be beaten without a trial. Why didn’t Paul pull the citizen card to avoid being beaten by the crowd earlier? The text shows the jailer’s family coming to Jesus, Paul seemed to elevate Kingdom priorities over citizenship and “rights”. It almost seemed like he didn’t want to mention it except to use it to continue his mission from Jesus. 

In Acts 22 we see Paul pull the citizen card to avoid being beaten and we find out this was something Paul was born into not something he acquired or purchased.  Paul seemed to use his citizenship to avoid beatings and being killed but he never seemed to use it to lift up allegiance to the empire. Previously in Acts 17 we see Paul in Thessalonica and a riot breaks out for proclaiming Jesus is king (and Caesar is not). The mob is angry because “these men who have turned the world upside down, have come here also,… they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus “ (Acts 17:6b-7). When Paul writes to the Philippians he says they are “citizens of heaven”. This would be shocking to a Roman colony (Where many would have been granted citizenship as a Roman colony versus a Roman territory). Paul is undermining their Roman citizenship and saying that their true citizenship was elsewhere. The Church is a colony of heavenly citizens and not Roman citizens. In the time of Rome, you would have been considered to have renounce your pledge to Rome if you desired to make an obedient pledge of faith to Jesus. Although, it seems the thorn in Paul’s flesh was likely a person, it could have been his personal inability to give up his Roman citizenship seemingly coming off as double mindedness or even as hypocritical when compared to His teaching of obedience solely to Christ. Some also frame this issue as if he is not able to rid himself of it due his the role as a Jewish Shliach prior to his transformation.

In Acts 25 we see Paul using his Roman citizenship to appeal to Caesar. But this is weird because not all citizens could appeal to Caesar, but Paul as a Jewish Shliach (undercover cop before his transformation on the Damascus road) likely could. Again Paul uses his citizenship to undermine the empire and get an audience with Caesar. At the end of Acts 28 Paul is under house arrest and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom unhindered. Did you get that? Paul used his citizenship to usurp the Empire right under Caesar’s nose with the gospel of the kingdom. Paul never used his citizenship to further the Roman’s agenda but the Kingdom of God’s. Paul was still beaten and faced many hardships for the kingdom and didn’t seem to pull the citizen card as often as we might think (see 2 Cor 11- much of this would not have happened if the citizen card was pulled). 

Jesus Christ, therefore, is our absolute Lord, KING OF KINGS. We swear absolute allegiance to him and to no one and nothing else. All other commitments must be within that relationship, or they are opposed it. Jesus was clear that we shouldn’t be making oaths to the world.

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’  But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:33-37)

Many Christians take this part of the Sermon on the mount to simply be about telling the truth. At surface level this is true, we are to be a people above reproach and full of integrity, but at a deeper level oaths get to the issue of allegiance. To take an oath is “a solemn promise”, likewise to make a pledge is “a solemn promise or oath of loyalty”. When we pledge allegiance or make and oath we are promising by an object (i.e flag) our loyalty to something (the Republic- our nation).

Jesus condemned taking an oath/pledge/promise using an object such as heaven (God’s location), God’s footstool (the temple), God’s City (Jerusalem as the seat of the Nation), or even by your head (God’s image) to make a promise or oath to something by your word. This is being connected to breaking covenant with God. This is why, right before this section on the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about divorce- the breaking of covenant. He’s playing off this picture when it comes to oath taking, saying that it is adultery and a rejection of the commandments to have no gods before Him (or literally in His face) and idols (thing representing the rule or location of a god), and this is part of bearing God’s name in vain.  Deuteronomy 6:13 say that we should swear by Him alone- this is a connection to our covenant with God and nothing else. 

This section of the sermon on the mount, that many look at as the antithesis’ of the Law, are all about how to bear and represent God’s name. It is the fulfillment of the 1st and 2nd commandment: to have only one God (Yahweh) and to not make idols, and to not bear/use (carry) his name in vain. Our loyalty is to Yahweh alone.  The Prophets spoke of oaths in this way, 

Though you are a whore, Israel, let not Judah become guilty.  Do not come up to Gilgal, nor go up to Beyth Awen, nor swear an oath, saying, ‘As YHWH lives!’” Hosea 4:15

Reading the words of YHWH in the mouth of Hosea is shocking, to say the least.  Israel is a whore?! “Do not come up to Gilgal, nor go up to Beyth Awen, nor swear an oath”, this oath is also connected to making an oath to a location (like to America).  “As YHWH lives.”  It’s the equivalent of our modern “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”  Hosea’s prophetic judgment is this:  if the one who proclaims such an oath does not live according to God’s instructions, the oath is worthless!  

Calling on the name of the Lord to vouch for our testimony means absolutely nothing unless our actions are aligned with His instructions. Once more we see that saying something has little consequence unless it is backed with doing something. How many times have we sworn an oath that doesn’t match our behavior?  “Until death do us part.”  What does such a promise mean when half of the time it is broken?  

Likewise Amos 8:14 says, “As for those who swear by the guilt of Samaria, Who say, ‘As your god lives, O Dan,’ And, ‘As the way of Beersheba lives,’ They will fall and not rise again.”

Amos is speaking to God’s people and telling them that swearing by a nation who is separate from God results in destruction. Again, Amos links oaths and actions connected to God’s covenant. What about those who swear/pledge by America (and her guilt), what awaits them? This is why John says to the churches of Asia Minor in Revelation, who were entangled with Rome (Babylon), to “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues” (Rev 18:4).

Blasphemy is not cursing.  It is using God’s name to vouch for something that isn’t true no matter what the subject or the circumstances.  “Let your ‘Yes’ be “Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No,’” said our Messiah.  Jesus knew why, do we? Lying, bending the truth, and making false oaths of allegiance is breaking a covenant with God.  Lying is spoken adultery.  

When we say “one nation under God”, are we telling the truth? By the way, this line was added to the pledge of allegiance in 1954 and “In God we trust” was legislated to be added onto our money in 1955. Are we lying when making an oath to a nation and declaring that it is under God or is in a special covenant with God (despite what Kirk Cameron says)? The Kingdom of God is the only kingdom of God. The New Testament continually says that the Principalities and Powers control the nations and Satan is the “Ruler of this World” and the “Prince of the power of the Air (another way to say this world)”. Jesus was offered all the nations of the World if he would worship (pledge?) the Devil and Jesus doesn’t deny the Devil owned them. Yet, he refused to and said we should “worship the Lord and serve Him [God] only”. This should cause us to pause and think.

Oaths are loyal proclamations to keep your promise. As a Christian, when you pledge to America are you making a promise of allegiance that goes against your baptismal pledge to the Kingdom of God? When Paul says don’t be unequally yoked this implies something about partnerships and oaths or covenant agreement with the world. In an ancient biblical context an oath meant to mix blood with someone and literally a covenant was cut. Israel made covenants with the world and eventually was handed over to exile because of they put other Gods before Yahweh continually. The law commanded to “fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made”. Jesus, sets the record straight as we notice that he does not say, ” Do not swear an oath and then break it.” No, he says: “Do not swear an oath AT ALL”!!!

This is why the Early Church, prior to Constantine and the entanglement of Christianity with the State, held a firm stance against oaths/pledges and flags. Tertullian (160-220 AD) summarized the thoughts of the early church saying this, “Shall we carry a flag? [NO] It is rival to Christ.” 

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24)

If you are giving your allegiance to your country or anyone else, you are slapping Jesus in the face.

Whether the choice is between God and money, God and man, God and a government or nation, the choice is always the same, one or the other. Jesus also said ” My kingdom is not of this world”. Jesus has a kingdom, and I can’t be loyal to two kingdoms at once. It would be impossible to be loyal to the USA and NAZI GERMANY during WWII at the same time! It’s the same with being part of the kingdom of God. Jesus calls us to be loyal to his kingdom, and if we have given our loyalty to God’s kingdom, how then can we try and give it to America or any other worldly kingdom? (This is a modified quote from Matt Young)

Some would say that in the same way we can have a covenant under God and a covenant relationship with our wives we can have a covenant relationship with God and our country. The problem is that marriage is a Biblical covenant imitated under the covenant of God. It is part of that Kingdom and should rightly align with all of the pledges and ideals of that covenant. You can’t simply bring in another covenant of oaths and allegiance under God’s covenant that is un-arguably ANTI-GOD or what His covenant is about. That is the definition of idolatry. It is taught from Old to New Testaments throughout the pages of the Bible as CONTRARY to what God wants and Jesus so clearly re-affirms.

How is it that Christians have become so blinded to this? How have we let the idea of Nationalism slip in and defile this covenant? I don’t think Jesus is smiling when you raise a hand in the air or over your heart to pledge your allegiance to anyone or anything other than him; especially when the entity you are embracing is so unabashedly “RIVAL” or against Him and His kingdom.

  1. Winkler, Martin M. (2009). The Roman Salute: Cinema, History, Ideology. Ohio State University Press. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-8142-0864-9.
  2.  Ellis, Richard (2005). To the Flag: The Unlikely History of the Pledge of Allegiance (illustrated ed.). University Press of Kansas. pp. 116–118.
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Was “Satan” in the Old Testament?

Today many people (Christian and non) understand the adversary of God to be Satan. In our modern culture we sometimes even view this cosmic bad guy to be an equal opponent to God in terms of power and dominion. It might Suprise you to know that the Old Testament didn’t (& doesn’t) read this way. In fact, if I handed you a Bible and you were able to read the Old Testament in ITS original language (Hebrew) you would be hard pressed to find “SATAN” as a singular or personal proper name being anywhere in the pages. However, in the New Testament, we get a clear picture of Satan being the leader of the fallen spirits and therefore have a tendency to read that concept back into the Old Testament. As Jesus and the New Testament often gives clarification or fulfillment to many aspects of the Old Testament, most readers are hermeneutically guilty of reading too much into the older text. It is important to first understand how the original audience understood the word given before applying any kind of later revelation or further meaning to a text. This is called a texts primary meaning.

In Hebrew, the specific noun and verb שׂטן (satan) usually take on an English translation of an accuser or adversary. Today in English, we sometimes use the word “satan” similarly when we say, “get behind me satan.” But in the New Testament the same term more often than not, referred to a specific person that is referred to by the proper name of “Satan.” Here is a basic example of the term “satan” used as the term for accuser. In Zechariah, “Joshua the high priest was standing before the angel of the Lord, and the satan [הַשָּׂטָן] was standing inat his right hand to accuse [שׂטן] him” (3:1). So essentially, the accuser was there to accuse him. In Hebrew this is exactly how it reads, but in English the interpreters have changed it likely to better fit with a New Testament view or perhaps even an interpretational bias for some reason or another. This is actually quite common and why I think every committed believer should have some understanding of the original Biblical languages and at least understand how to use an interlinear. Can you imagine being married to someone and not caring to understand any of their original language.

before we got too far into this conversation let’s also dispel a common notion. Some want to think of Satan as an “office” in the same way they talk about an Elder being an office position. Let’s just expel those notions. The Bible doesn’t clearly say there are any “offices” and we shouldn’t view these words that way. We don’t have a constitution or set of bylaws we are given with the Bible, and there aren’t offices, only a king of all and His name is clearly JESUS. X44 has done an entire episode on this.

Most English Bible translator’s pickup up on the “singular cosmic bad guy leader” to be represented at least in some way in the OT. That’s why every English translation (right or wrong) simply uses “Satan,” throughout the Old Testament such as in Job 1-2, Zechariah 3:1-2, and 1 Chronicles 21:1. It’s been the traditional understanding for many years that Satan was the leader of the fallen degenerate spirits even before the New Testament. But as a scholar, I would say that most translators have “back read” the singular cosmic bad guy into the story, having the New Testament at hand and likely taking more liberty as a translator than I would prefer. By that I mean, that in the above verses the Hebrew word would actually be better translated (as it is in some versions) as an accuser or challenger, and sometimes this even takes on a positive connotation which leaves some scratching their head. I have also written on this concept about being a positive challenger to your covenant community. I thought about naming that article “how to be a good Satan” but didn’t think that would go over well. You can read that here.

Would King David have had an understanding of a singular proper named entity of Satan? I doubt it.

Here’s why: In every case in Job and Zechariah, the Hebrew is “hassatan [הַשָּׂטָן],” that is, “the satan.” Translations do not reflect this well in English, they simply read “Satan,” as if it is a proper name when it isn’t written that way in Hebrew. On the other hand, there is a chance that this reference “could” be the singular person (ie SATAN) of the New Testament, the Hebrew text just doesn’t specifically say that in the way that you likely understand because of the English translation. In other words, we don’t have the hermeneutical merit to go one way or the other. It isn’t wrong to come to a conclusion, or have an opinion, but we don’t have concrete evidence to go either way.

In Job, the accuser or challenger (satan) appears among the divine council — although most assume this is the Satan figure of the New Testament; I would caution that way of thinking. The text is vague or ambiguous for many reasons, and we just don’t have all the cards. Is this a story that takes place before the fall? (Well, if you believe in a pre-Adamite race [and I do] -you can go this way, but you also don’t have to) does the accuser of Job become Satan? Maybe, or maybe not, we don’t need him to, but he might be. There is a link below to an x44 video on this as well.

Although scholarship is divided on the interpretation of who the satan is in specifically Job and Zechariah, (divine council good guy functioning like a district attorney in a court scene as one of the [fallen or unfallen] powers and principalities, or the singular bad guy etc… we don’t really know and again it doesn’t matter much imho. “WE DON’T HAVE THE ANSWER IN THE TEXT” – The best interpretation in my view is he may or may not be.

1 Chronicles 21:1 seems to be the ONLY verse in the Old Testamant that would clearly use the term “satan” as a proper name: “Satan [שָׂטָן]” and not “the satan” or Hebrew “hassatan [הַשָּׂטָן].” One of the basic laws of Hermeneutics is to not use any one singular occurrence of something to make a doctrine or concrete statement based solely on the one situation, although people do this all the time (it isn’t good theology.) There are many reasons for this hermeneutic. Without getting into too much of a conversation on inerrancy, there are too many possible variations that could’ve led to this one thing being slightly off. It may be a scribe error, or perhaps a more modern translation with second temple thinking of Satan read into it as being the most modern manuscript we have and likely being different than the original manuscripts. to name a couple options. I’m careful not to completely discount them, but I also don’t want to give them too much merit. But the singular text of I Chronicles 21:1 doesn’t answer the question in contention of whether the singular Satan is represented in the Old Testament based solely on this verse, but hermeneutically it may give you a hint as to the consideration of your view. You should be “influenced” by it or consider the notion even if it is a singular occurrence.

as I stated with David above, personally, I don’t think any of the pre 2nd temple period audience had a concept of a singular bad guy named Satan. The Old Testament nearly always READS MORE as a powers and principalities description of fallen degenerate spirits rather than a singular super bad guy.

By the intertestamental period writers started to think of a singular proper named leader of the degenerate spirits and recognized him based on the text of the Torah as simply “satan.” (That type of etymology is common in Hebrew, a name was given that described “what” it was.) During this period, we see many names being used to describe the cosmic leader of Evil in extra biblical source and influences from the heavily mythic Greek cultures with names emerging such as Belial, Mastema, Satanail, and the devil (interesting how this term is usually not capitalized), but the term Satan is the likely the most prevalent. Some of these writings such as the Wisdom of Solomon, 1 Enoch, the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Jubilees, and the Dead Sea Scrolls all speak to the increased interest in the demonic realm. Jewish apocalyptic literature was common during the intertestamental period and often described stories within the realm of spiritual beings.

At this point in the article, I am sure you are wondering about the serpent in Genesis 3, and I held off on this conversation point because it ties into the 2nd temple period. The serpent in Genesis three might be the singular bad guy described in the New Testament. Whether it is or isn’t the case, we are likely reading a dual fall; or the story of the fall of humankind at the same time we are reading the story of the first fallen spiritual being that many propose ends up being the Satan of the New Testament. It does seem to be the story of the first fallen spiritual being as the tempting serpent appears to be sinning and likely would not have been allowed in the garden after he sins and is cast down. But these statements are scripturally informed hypotheses. We don’t get that for sure anywhere in the Biblical text to be clear. But by the intertestamental period many writers had made this deduction, that the serpent of Genesis 3 was the first of the fallen and the leader of the degenerate spirits. For example, in The Wisdom of Solomon 2:24, we read, “through the devil’s envy death entered the world,” which identifies Genesis 3 and also at several points connects the Devil with the proper name Satan.

There is also an argument that the New Testament authors assumed the same; in Revelation, we read, “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him” (12:9). John says, “the devil has been sinning from the beginning” (I John 3:8), and that the “evil one” influenced Cain to murder Abel (3:12). Paul states, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” in a Genesis 3:15 connection. Getting back to our inerrancy inference, we do need to consider the personal beliefs or influences of the writers and possibly keep these separate from the doctrine of the scriptures, but again this is a whole other conversation, and one that is a heated debate.

It’s obvious that by the New Testament, there was an understanding, of a leader of the fallen evil forces, being recognized as the proper name, Satan (the person who tempted Christ in the wilderness.) Do we have the merit to backwards read this into the Old Testament? Personally, I would say no… but I would also say that he – the Satan figure (proper name) was there and possibly in the garden.

Can we assume or give Him (Satan) the credit for several of the evils of the Old Testament? Why would we?

It’s also worth noting that even in the New Testament, there is a powers and principalities feel, that they weren’t just concerned about a singular bad guy, they were concerned about all of the fallen oppressors, the entire realm of evil and the fallen world.

Personally, what I don’t have a lot of interpretation for, is when anyone wants to make the cosmic ruler of evil (Satan) out to be greater than God or Jesus or even equal as if he was or is a worthy opponent. I do believe we are in a spiritual battle, but our King has won this fight generations ago. The keys have been reclaimed, the fallen bound, and the trajectory is towards reclaiming joy within the kingdom we “live” and reign in here and now and eschatologically to come.

If you want to explore this topic more, here are some great videos to get you started.

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